Collin Morikawa won the Open on Sunday at Royal St George's
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So much for Bryson DeChambeau and the rest of the hulks taking over the world of golf. Next week, the Olympics could well witness a 5ft 9in player ranked outside the PGA Tour’s top 90 longest drivers take a golden route to the top of the game’s rankings.
Everything about Collin Morikawa’s remarkable two-year career so far indicates that he is eminently capable of following up Sunday’s Open victory with further glory in Tokyo and thus providing proof that his beloved sport is not yet entirely the domain of the big-hitters.
In that sense, the 24-year-old’s rise to become the antidote to DeChambeau is as well-timed as it is welcome. The R&A and US Golf Association are still mulling over whether to introduce regulations to limit how far the ball can travel and while some may be concerned that Morikawa has delivered an “excuse” for the governing bodies to back down under legal threats from the equipment makers, the reality should, in fact, be the opposite and the conviction should be stiffened.
To watch Morikawa employ precision, agility and, most pertinently, golfing intelligence to become the first ever to win on debut in two different majors – having prevailed at the US PGA 11 months ago – was to understand how much more interesting this pursuit can be rather than when the bomb-and-gouge squad are in their simplistic heaven.
Certainly, Tommy Fleetwood believes the accession of Morikawa to be a huge positive. “He’s a superb iron player,” the erudite Englishman told Telegraph Sport. “I rate myself in that category, but Collin, wow! He’s young, confident, is playing great, so everything’s there for the taking at the moment. And what’s especially nice is that he is not overpowering courses, as seems to be the modern trend. He is doing it with iron play. That is his super strength.”
In fairness, Morikawa’s putting at Royal St George’s was also donned in a metaphorical cape. “That was some of the best clutch putting we have ever seen,” Paul Azinger, the former US Ryder Cup captain, said in the wake of Morikawa’s two-shot win over fellow American, Jordan Spieth. “When you put the pressure on that guy, you’re plainly asking for trouble. Collin handles it as well as anyone I’ve seen since Tiger Woods.”
And while Azinger is correct as far as Sandwich was concerned, it is too early to start the TW comparisons on the greens. Yet on the fairways it is not. The launch monitors have shown that Morikawa is as accurate with a six-iron as the average Tour pro is with a wedge. “I guess that’s a humble brag,” Morikawa told Golf Digest.
Morikawa has shown that he is as accurate with a six-iron as the average Tour pro is with a wedge
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As far as being boastful is concerned, Morikawa is not even in the top 100. It is not in his nature. Granted, this son of LA laundrette owners is driven by the ambition to clean up in his profession, but it is all about the numbers on the scorecard not those on the Trackman that certain colleagues keep flashing up on their social-media accounts.
Morikawa’s long-time coach, Rick Sessinghaus, has preached the gospel of “being a player, not a hitter” of “thinking about variables and understanding whether the mistake was the result of a bad swing or a bad decision?”. So what golf has been presented with is a champion with the emphasis on brains instead of brawn.
“It’s said quite often that the game is dominated by ‘muscle men’ and not ‘thinking men’,” Brandel Chamblee, the former Tour winner said on NBC. “How then do you describe the game of Morikawa and his success? It is a throwback to Ben Hogan, to the tactician and to the more cognitive game of Tiger Woods.”
Azinger concurs. “Collin did it the old-fashioned way – fairways and greens,” he said. “In the bomb-and-gouge era, that’s not what Morikawa is about. We all think that this game has taken some sort of paradigm shift where you just have to crush it. He didn’t do it that way.”
MacIntyre targets Ryder Cup spot after impressing at Royal St George's
Morikawa is not an outlier, regardless of his outrageous 25 per cent success ratio in eight majors played. Hideki Matsuyama won this year’s Masters by virtue of other attributes than yardage, while Spieth, himself, has three majors by dint of what he can conjure in around the green and not off the tee. Fleetwood is another and what Morikawa has bestowed is hope for the mid-hitters.
If styles make fights then so, too, do they make sports multi-dimensional (ie interesting). “I think he’s fantastic,” Fleetwood said. “You look at what he’s done already and just know that you are going to see his name on the big leaderboards for years to come.”
So how many majors will he knock off? Four, six, eight, double figures? Golf and its chroniclers always resort to these predictions after what it senses to be a seismic triumph: Jon Rahm in last month’s US Open, Dustin Johnson in last year’s Masters, DeChambeau in last year’s US Open, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy with their quartets in previous seasons – and with Morikawa the grand pronouncements will inevitable rain down hard.
Regardless, he has already rewritten the plot back to the game-for-all narrative for which golf should forever aim and cherish.